Plants Under Attack?
A beneficial hoverfly feeding and resting on a marigold
Our fruit and veges are attacked by white fly, aphids, carrot fly, cabbage butterflies, slugs and snails and get fungal infections like moulds. It can be frustrating, but help is at hand in our natural world!
Take a walk around your garden or green space and notice which direction the wind is coming from and going to. Many insects follow the scents and perfumes of fruit and vegetables blown along for hundreds of metres. You can fool them by placing certain plants, like alliums (leeks, onions, chives or garlic), wormwood or tansy which emit strong or unpleasant perfumes, downwind from your vege patch or pots to mask the sweet scents. The carrot root fly for example, which can smell carrots growing up to a kilometre away, will miss them and look elsewhere. Other pests will ignore your garden and keep flying.
Alliums also deter slugs from eating your leafy crops, lettuce, rocket, kale, silverbeet and beetroot. Versatile alliums can be planted in alternative rows with strawberries to prevent fungal infections like mould destroying your delicious fruit.
A Ladybird beetle or Ladybug munching an aphid
Nettles and Landcress (Barbarea vulgaris) can be planted near brassicas – cabbage, caulflower, brussel sprouts, brocolli – and kale to draw pretty, but damaging, cabbage white butterflies to lay their eggs. Another trick is to sacrifice a brassica plant or two near your new brassica seedlings, to draw the destructive white butterflies to lay their eggs there. This has worked quite well in my garden.
If you see swarms of hoverflies towards summer, smile! These hard workers happily munch all the aphids and other eggs on your plants and are not interested in humans.
Some plants like basil, marigolds and calendula act as natural insect repellants to whitefly if planted close to chillies, capsicums and tomatoes. They are also highly bee and beneficial insect attracting – Ladybugs, Hoverflies and Lacewings (and their larvae) are voracious eaters of aphids and whitefly eggs as well as Scale insects.
You can intermix colourful highly perfumed plants like borage, thyme, oregano, bergamot, lavendar, cosmos and coneflowers between your veges and fruit trees and both beneficial and destructive insects are drawn to them and not your backyard bounty. I love to plant orange and yellow nasturtiums amongst beans and peas; perfumed roses near fruit trees attract aphids away from vegetables and fruit; pop orange and yellow calendula all around the veges to draw slugs and snails.
A red and black Ladybug on a leaf
Some plants like fennel, pyrethrum and chamomile have natural chemical compounds which are used to make organic insecticide sprays and of course are avoided by most insects…plus by including these in the garden, we can then use fennel in our recipes and chamomile to brew tea!
Try to use nature against itself to control your unwanted insect visitors and enjoy a garden full of perfumes, brilliant colour and beneficial insects as an added benefit.
Young Whitefly on a leaf